Martyr coworker

There’s an employee on my team who really stepped things up when others in the group left (one voluntarily, the other involuntary). She was singlehandedly keeping the department going, and we were all impressed. With that said, since she was the only one doing the majority of the work, the focus was mainly on the core responsibilities (getting invoices out, invoices paid, etc). All the other tasks we usually manage fell by the wayside, because there simply wasn’t enough time, and we were okay with that. 

That was two months ago. Since then, we’ve hired several new staff, and the workload is more evenly distributed. However, she still doesn’t feel that she has to attend meetings or respond to emails with report updates in a timely manner (if at all). She’s always sighing very loudly at her desk, complaining how busy she is, how late she stayed the night before, and that she came in on the weekend. We’ve sat her down in meetings and told her that we need to reset expectations now that we are properly staffed, but things don’t seem to be changing much. She’s still working late, but with 1/3 of the prior workload, it’s just odd. Frankly, it’s gotten to the point where everyone wonders what she is actually doing. What to do?

Okay, so you have this employee who has been allowed to blow meetings and other deliverables off during a work crisis. That’s (semi) acceptable, but it seems you thought there was an unspoken mutual understanding that these responsibilities would be picked back up when things settled down a bit. Clearly, it hasn’t.

It sounds like this person rather likes the attention received from being a martyr – there’s a certain “oh wow, Lisa is working so hard – can you believe she’s handling all this work and getting it done?!” and it’s feeding the ego. Loudly sighing is also a passive aggressive behavior and needs to stop.

So two things – 1) either she doesn’t know how to manage work efficiently, or 2), she’s dragging things out because she’s been allowed to continue on this path, and needs a serious reset.  Sit her down with HR and have her outline what her current day looks like, what projects and tasks she’s managing, and go from there.

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Martyr coworker

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